The following post was written by Kevin Harris, Director of Community Relations at The Marin Foundation.
Over the years I have become increasingly convinced that serving alongside individuals that are different than you is necessary for reconciliation to come about. A couple years after finishing college, I signed up with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps to live, travel, and serve with a team of complete strangers for ten months. We all came from varying places as far as geographical locations, faith perspectives, socio-economic status, personalities, etc. and we had to learn to work with one another. In starting to serve with one another, we had to work on developing healthy interpersonal relationships and positive team dynamics in order to be effective in the projects we found ourselves in. Our work put us in close proximity with one another and that helped to enable communication while our common goals and mission helped to band us together in the name of something larger than ourselves. Although we may not have gotten along all the time, the work helped us to learn to care for and develop a mutual respect with those on our team.
Along the sames lines, we in the Church that have a desire to build bridges with the LGBT community have got to go beyond the four walls of our churches and into their community, in the respective capacity that is afforded to each of us to start to serve alongside those in the community. It can become easy to get caught up in the discussions/debates and end up getting frustrated, hence the need to seek out and pursue common values and goals that can lead to bringing about positive change in our communities. In the process of bringing about positive change, there is the possibility that walls can start to come down and we will no longer see those that are different than ourselves as an ‘other’ as our journeys become interwoven and we start to develop a mutual respect for and trust with one another. The understanding and respect that we slowly develop in those contexts will naturally lend themselves to discussions about faith and difficult conversations within our churches when they come up.
It is not only important that we serve, but we must be careful in how we go about serving. I believe that we must be willing to step out of our comfort zones and meet the LGBT community on their turf and their conditions. The attractional church model that says “come to us and see what we’re doing,” can be intimidating for individuals that are weary of the Church in the first place. But instead, going to the community and asking how we can partner with what they are already doing can help to develop a teachable and humble spirit in us that helps to avoid the knight in shining armor mentality. Then if we do have any suggestions in the future, they will at least be grounded in experience with and knowledge of the community we are serving. This desire to learn and serve instead of being eager to tell others how they should go about solving the problems in their own community is a way that individuals in the Church can start to gain back our near complete lack of credibility in the LGBT community while living out our faith in an incarnational manner.